The upcoming “Call of Duty: Vanguard” video game takes you back to World War II – but the latest addition to the multi-billion dollar franchises promises different perspectives of the global conflict.
This diversity of perspectives is what you see unfolding prominently in the game’s main characters on November 5 for PlayStation 5, PS4, Xbox Series X / S, Xbox One, and PC.
The team includes Sgt. Arthur Kingsley, who is black and Russian sniper lieutenant Polina Petrova, alongside his teammates, Brooklyn-born pilot Wade Jackson identified as a first-generation American, Australian explosives expert Lucas Riggs and commander in Second Sgt. Richard Webb, who is white. This team – a precursor to modern special forces units – is assembled for a mission to enter Berlin and thwart a German plan to establish a Fourth Reich.
While the game creators at Activision-owned studio Sledgehammer Games took some liberties with the story – the story is fictional – they wanted to weave lesser-known WWII stories after creating the more traditional “Call of Duty” : WWII “, released in 2017.
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So, historical advisor Marty Morgan, technical director of the previous game and author of “D-Day: A Photographic History of the Normandy Invasion”, told them about Russia’s most successful sniper, Ludmila Pavlichenko, known as the name of “Lady Death”. and the Tobruk Rats, Australian troops in North Africa who pushed back General Erwin Rommel’s desert force.
“Hearing about these interesting stories, we thought, ‘OK, we have to make a game about this,’ said studio creative director David Swenson.
At the same time, the studio celebrated its 10th anniversary and opened a studio in Melbourne, Australia – and executives were reassessing Sledgehammer Games’ mission. “A big part of that was the culture and values of our team. What kind of team did we want to be in the next decade,” said Swanson. “We realized that we were making games for a global audience, and we felt we needed to have a diversity of thinking in our team in order to be able to speak to a large audience.”
One result: a basic editorial team of three men and three women, atypical for a first-person shooter. “It was super refreshing to have a team made up of half of women, that doesn’t happen often, especially (in) storytelling and video games,” said Belinda Garcia, Associate Narrative Designer, who helped write the dialogues of the character of Polina.
Alexa Ray Corriea, a narrative designer for the team, said that Sledgehammer’s story boss Stephen Rhodes, “painted this image, similar to the team you see in (the game) Vanguard, from this teaming up with diverse backgrounds, voices and ideas and building something really special… it was inclusive and for everyone to play. “
“This vision really spoke to me,” said Corriea, who helped flesh out Wade Jackson’s character dialogue.
Also on the editorial team: Tochi Onyebuchi, author of the books “(S) kinfolk” and “Riot Baby”.
When asked for additional information about diversity within the company, Activision Blizzard did not provide a breakdown of the overall composition of its workforce, which includes more than 20 studios around the world.
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The publisher is working with state and federal regulators on claims it has fostered a toxic work culture. Two weeks ago, Activision announced it would create an $ 18 million fund to compensate harassed or discriminated against employees under a deal with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The diverse cast of ‘Call of Duty
The actors who contributed to the project recognized the studio’s spirit of diversity. Chiké Okonkwo (“La Brea”), who provided the voice and likeness of Kingsley, liked the idea of telling new stories from a different perspective.
History buff whose theatrical background includes membership in the Royal Shakespeare Company, Okonkwo said he recalled hearing stories about African and African Caribbean men and women who fought in WWII . It is therefore “a great honor”, he said, to represent Kingsley, a character from Cameroon and a multilingual officer in the British army.
“We’re used to seeing these games from a very masculine European perspective, but they were world wars and WWII was fought on all fronts,” Okonkwo said. “What I really hope people enjoy is the fact that it shows this incredibly capable team from all parts of the world.… It’s nice for viewers to have a different perspective on this incredible time of the story.”
Likewise, Laura Bailey, an accomplished voice actor who plays Petrova and has provided vocals in many games, including “The Last of Us II” and “Marvel’s Avengers,” said: “Often in war stories, we don’t. we can’t see that side of things. “
“When I started researching the role and looking at women in WWII, I was blown away that there were 800,000 women in the Russian military (at the time) “said Bailey, who has appeared on television and in movies and has done voices for animated shows such as” Spider-Man. ” “It’s just a story we don’t see. I was truly honored to be able to expose more people to this aspect.”
The return of Call of Duty in WWII
Call of Duty and WWII have a history. The first three “Call of Duty” games, released in 2003 for Windows PCs, were set during World War II and allowed gamers to fight their way through D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.
It wasn’t until 2007 that “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” shifted the frame into the current era. The “Call of Duty: Black Ops” games – the first released in 2010 – were originally set during the Cold War.
Beyond Vanguard’s single-player story campaign, its multiplayer gameplay will also allow players to choose their character – the one that reflects if they choose. “I think anyone who plays multiplayer will also see themselves in someone,” Corriea said. “We have such a diversity of backgrounds, histories and ethnicities that everyone will come together in a story.”
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.